I’m amazed at the number of people in our industry that get away with the minimum effort. While it’s true there’s a shortage of developers, the supply of good developers is even smaller. What I’m referring to here by good developer is one willing to learn and grow. I don’t care if someone knows the latest and greatest technologies or if they can code circles around me. I do however expect a good developer to be willing and able to learn. Doing so often means putting forth the effort on your own time, usually on your own dime.
It’s not up to your company to ensure you remain marketable
I recently worked on a team with a rather toxic coworker. This individual was largely self taught, and didn’t have a very good teacher. The project was a hodge-podge of bad code piled on top of worse code using 10 year-old technologies. The toxic coworker was quite content putting in 80 hours a week just to keep the system running, rarely making any significant headway improving the product or their situation. The only complaint ever raised was that the company wasn’t providing enough training.
When 3 days of self directed training was offered and taken, I’m not sure any headway was made by this individual. Learning was such a foreign concept at this point, I’m not sure it was even possible without significant change in attitude and personal growth.
I’ve spent just as much time on the interviewer side of the table as I have as a candidate
When interviewing candidates to join my team as a software developer I’m mostly interested in how (and if) you learn. I want to know about any side or self-directed projects. I want to know what technologies, frameworks, or methodologies you’ve learned in the last 6 months. I want to see your willingness to learn and grow.
A few years ago we interviewed a developer to join our team. One of the candidates had a decent enough resume and many years under his belt. When he came in for the interview it was obvious he had been doing the same job without learning or growing for many, many years. Have you seen the Mike Judge classic Office Space?
What would you say… you do here?
-Bob (Office Space)
My advice? Learn. Grow. Seek out knowledge. Don’t be the guy with one year of experience, repeated 23 times. Make yourself indispensable. Prove to your superiors that you’re the go-to-guy when something new or unknown comes up. Be the source of knowledge for your coworkers. Show others the path towards constant improvement. Do all of this and you’re destined to have a great career.
An author and Microsoft MVP, John has been a professional developer since 1999. He has focused primarily on web technologies and has experience with everything from PHP to C# to ReactJS to SignalR. Clean code and professionalism are particularly important to him, as well as mentoring and teaching others what he has learned along the way.